Foxglove: How to plant, grow and care in your pot and garden
Tall and stately foxglove plants (Digitalis purpurea) have long been included in garden areas where vertical interest and lovely flowers are desired. The Foxglove is a familiar, tall plant, with pink flower spikes and deadly nature. In summer, it can be spotted in woodlands and gardens, and on moorlands, roadside verges, and waste grounds.
The charismatic, pink flower spikes of the Foxglove are famous as both a reminder of the hazy days of summer and of its deadly poisonous nature. Ingestion of any parts of the plant can result in nausea, headaches, and diarrhea, or even heart and kidney problems. The high flower stems are only produced in the plant’s second year and can be seen between June and September. Foxgloves can be found in woodlands and gardens, and on moorlands, coastal cliffs, roadside verges, and waste ground.
Like many of our native plants, they are an excellent source of nectar for bumblebees, moths, and Honeybees.
How to Grow Foxgloves
Foxglove plants grow best in rich, well-draining soil. Caring for foxglove plants will include keeping the soil moist. As a biennial or short-lived perennial, the gardener can encourage the re-growth of foxglove flowers by not allowing the soil to dry out or to get too soggy.
Foxglove flowers may be grown from seed, producing blossoms in the second year. If flower heads are not removed, foxglove plants reseed themselves abundantly. Using them as cut flowers can decrease reseeding. If flowers are allowed to drop seeds, thin the seedlings next year to about 18 inches (46 cm.) apart, allowing growing foxgloves room to develop. If you want additional foxglove plants next year, leave the last flowers of the season to dry on the stalk and drop seeds for new growth.
Plant taxonomy classifies the most commonly grown foxglove plants as Digitalis purpurea. Most types of foxglove plants are grouped with the biennials in the field of botany. In the first year, the plant has leaves that form a rosette close to the ground. In the second (and final) year, it develops a spike with blooms. Under the right growing conditions, foxglove often lasts longer, blooming another year or two beyond what their “biennial” status would warrant. In this case, they may be considered herbaceous perennials. The most reliable perennial species is Digitalis Grandiflora.
The scientific genus name Digitalis refers to the fact that foxglove flowers are just about the right size for slipping your fingers into, as the Latin translation of digitalis is “measuring a finger’s breadth.” (It is easy to remember this name origin since fingers are often referred to as “digits.”)
Grow foxglove plants in full sun, partial sun, or partial shade. Once mature, they tolerate dry shade but not full shade. Tailor the amount of sunshine you give this biennial to your climate. If you live in the south, give it some shade. In the north, you can grow it in a range of sunlight conditions, from full sun to partial shade, although it will perform best in partial sun.
Foxgloves like rich, well-draining soil that’s acidic, with a pH under 6.0.
Foxglove is susceptible to crown rot, so provide it with good drainage.1 Keep the soil moist, but not soaked. If there is a dry period in the summer and it hasn’t received 1 inch of rain in a week or the top 2 inches of soil is dry, water the plant with a drip hose.
Temperature and Humidity
Foxgloves tend to do better in cooler temperatures and may wilt in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They do not have any humidity requirements. The seeds will germinate when temperatures reach between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Try to provide good air circulation by giving them sufficient spacing.
Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch for winter protection if your region is borderline zone 4. Then apply a 1-inch layer of compost around the plant in early spring to encourage growth. Fertilizer is not necessary and excess nitrogen can harm the flower growth. You can add a small handful of slow-release 5-10-5 fertilizer in the early spring. Scatter it around the plant and then water over the fertilizer to help it settle. Avoid having the fertilizer touch the foliage, as it may burn the plant.
Foxglove attracts aphids, beetles, mealybugs, nematodes, and mites. It is also plagued by anthracnose, crown rot from white fungal spores, verticillium wilt, and leaf spot.